Nicaraguan protesters back on streets in push for justice


Managua (AFP)

Riot police blocked young Nicaraguan demonstrators who were back on the streets Wednesday to demand justice over the deaths of 43 people in anti-government unrest.

"Let us through! The streets belong to the people!" protesters screamed as riot units cut them off in part of the capital Managua's historic center.

The students emerged from Central American University heading to Congress to underscore opposition to the Truth Commission formed by ruling Sandinista party lawmakers on the deadly demonstrations against President Daniel Ortega.

They are demanding an independent investigation.

The protests that erupted on April 18 were the worst faced by Ortega in his last 11 years in power, badly shaking his tight grip on power over the country, one of the poorest in Latin America.

The spark was reforms to the deficit-stricken social security system, but the unrest quickly swelled on the back of widespread resentment of Ortega's perceived authoritarianism.

The president, a former rebel who has ruled Nicaragua for 22 of the past 39 years, made a series of concessions after sharp domestic and international criticism over the use of security forces to put down the protests, and curbs on independent media to report them.

The concessions included abandoning the social security reforms, freeing dozens of arrested protesters, lifting broadcast bans on private TV channels, and offering dialogue.

Many Nicaraguans, though -- especially emboldened university students -- want Ortega to step down.